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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 18, 2002

For these triathletes, World is in backyard

 •  Nationals for 16s, 18s set for O'ahu
 •  The racing report
 •  Sports Notices

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

In the 10-hour torture test known as the Ironman Triathlon World Championship, competitors know one simple truth: get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Some of Hawai'i's top triathletes, from left, Chris Tang, Brigitte Egbert and Joe Zwack, of Team Boca Hawai'i, train with Raul Boca Torres at Ala Moana Beach Park. Tang, Egbert and Zwack are entered in tomorrow's Ironman.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

"It's a painful day out there," said Honolulu's Brigitte Egbert, the top Hawai'i women's amateur finisher last year. "It's brutal."

Once again, Kailua on the Big Island will host the Ironman Triathlon World Championships —considered the most prestigious triathlon in the world — and its nearly 1,500 competitors tomorrow. And as always, competitors can expect extreme hot and windy weather conditions during the Ironman.

"It's a long day," Egbert said. "Your mind is the most powerful tool that you have going for you. If you have a moment of weakness, it can stop you in your tracks."

Egbert is one of three Hawai'i competitors along with Chris Tang of Makiki and Joe Zwack of Kailua who have been trained by fitness guru Raul Boca Torres. The three triathletes represent Team Boca Hawai'i and are considered some of the local favorites in the Ironman.

Egbert, 31, who finished the Ironman in 10 hours, 25 minutes and 4 seconds last year, said she's trying not to get too wrapped up in the expectations of repeating as the first Hawai'i woman finisher.

"I'm not going to set expectations too high or too low," said Egbert, who works as an account manager at a commercial insurance brokerage. "I'm just going to do the best I can. If I'm successful, I should have one hell of a race."

The same could be said for Zwack, 42, and Tang, 31. Both have tackled the Ironman before and have experienced the grueling weather. Last year, Zwack, who competes in the Hawai'i amateur masters division, finished in 11:44:15 and Tang, the top Hawai'i amateur finisher in 2000, finished in 10:45:06.

"Every year, Kona is different and challenging," said Zwack, who will be competing in his fourth World Championship. "It will always be hot and windy, which is very taxing on anyone."

Zwack said the strategy for the majority of the competitors is to "stay close on the swim" and "pace yourself on the bike."

"This race really comes down to the last half of the run," said Zwack, who works for the Coast Guard and attends Hawai'i Pacific University. "You have to give it all on the run."

Tang said the triathlon is a 10-hour, roller-coaster ride of emotions. He said the top triathletes learn how to master their emotions and overcome adversity.

"You can be the strongest athlete out there, but a lot of guys break down," Tang said. "It can be as small as dropping your water bottle or having a flat tire. For some people, that will just kill them. You have to get back into the rhythm."

Most athletes will experience the feelings of highs and lows during the race, Tang said, but the key is knowing how to pace yourself.

"A lot of people will feel good and then they'll go real hard," said Tang, who works at Roy's Restaurant in Hawai'i Kai. "But then they'll blow up. You have to be balanced. It's a long race."

The three triathletes spent this past week recovering from months of training. During a typical training week, triathletes average about 7 to 8 miles of swimming, 220 miles of biking and 50 miles of running, Zwack said.

"The last week before the race is the hardest part," Zwack said. "You have to taper your training significantly and watch what you eat. And you have the anticipation and the nerves."

By tomorrow, the wait will be over and Egbert, Zwack and Tang will be pushing the limits of their bodies.

"Some people think we're nuts," Tang said. "But this is really a special race. If it wasn't for this race, I wouldn't be doing this. This is the world championship and it's in our backyard."

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